22 NOVEMBER 1963, Page 15

% lb Letters Below the Bread Line F. O'Hanlon,

Mrs. R. Howard, A. C. Palmer

Half an Oaf L. E. Weidberg Lawyers' Loot 'Another City Solicitor' Not Lincoln William Squire 'Scrutiny' C. B. Cox. W. M. Tydentan Readings in Spenser John Cowser


SIR,-1 am not surprised that your correspondent, Mrs. Stone, had thought that 'everyone came under the umbrella of National Assistance in case of proved need' and consequently she could not understand why anyone should be compelled, to work in advanced old age.

The public has been given the impression by dis- honest propaganda that no one in the Welfare State need be in want because National 'Assistance is available for all In fact, the amount payable to an applicant depends upon the discretion and the good- will of the local official, and any generosity which he might be inclined to dispense is restrained by elaborate and brutal means tests. The whole' of the amount awarded is subject to frequent review and to withdrawal at any time. In the year 1961, 112,000 applicants received less than live shillings a week. The Ministry of Pensions admit that two-thirds of nun-pensioners received nothing.

Here are only two examples taken from the 700 letters which I nave received from non-pensioners since January laSt, which may answer Mrs. Stone's questions.

Mrs. K of Rotherham, a widow of eighty-one, writes: 'Some of my friends are amazed that I don't receive a pension and I am afraid that they don't believe me. . . . In 1958 I was advised to apply for a non-contributory pension which was 28s. 4d. a week. 1 was granted this but felt like a pauper when the Assistance man came to visit me. . . As soon as I sold my house for £1,324 . . . they stopped the pension. I am in very poor health and require much medicine. With prescriptions at 2s. it seems the last straw. . . . 1 have paid 6s. this week.' Mrs. K ineligible for National Assistance because her capital exceeds £600.

Mr. C of Woodford writes: 'I retired in 1935 (I am eighty-six). I received a pension from my lirm which is now £5 weekly. I recently applied to the National Assistance Board but they turned me down.' He adds that he worked 'to make ends meet' until forced to desist by the severity of last winter.

Among the worst sufferers are the wives and widows of men who were over sixty-five in 1948 and excluded from insurance. One of them, Mrs. B of Worthing, then .aged forty-eight, asked to be allowed to join the insurance scheme and to earn a pension on her own account. She was told that she could not be admitted unless she went out to work. Circumstances made that impossible, but six years later, when the circumstances had changed, the again applied, stating that she was then able utd willing to go out to work. The Ministry replied that she had missed the bus, as she should have ioined before she was fifty. Now that her husband has died, she is refused a widow's pension and burial Mlowance. As her savings exceed £600 she is de- barred from National Assistance. Now at the age of sixty-three she is' compelled to go out' to work. If she had not been married to her husband but had been 'living in sin,' she would have been admitted to insurance and would he drawing her pension.

The widespread dislike of the means tests and the odium attached thereto has caused many persons to refuse to apply for National Assistance. Even the Labour spokesmen, Mr. Houghton and Mr. Cross- man, are now forced to recognise the cruelty of the means tests which their party instituted. Mr. Cross- man denounces passionately the 'miserable poverty' of the pensioners who have to submit to the in- dignity of applying for Assistance. But the far more miserable poverty of the non-pensioners does not enter into his mode of thought. Their few votes arc not worth buying, so he rejects all proposals which might mitigate the misery of their, poverty. That attitude illustrates the class distinction which the Labour Party created in 1948 by the exclusion of the oldest and weakest from benefits which Beveridge had declared to be the right of all citizens. The present Government maintains the same in- human attitude. In January, in reply to protests against the gift of an additional 10s. a week to wealthy pensioners, Mr. Macpherson said it was the desire of the Government that 'all classes should share in the general prosperity.' He did not include non-pensioners in his 'all classes.' The recently appointed Minister is no better. He has replied ,to our appeal with the same dishonest excuses which have been refuted on scores of occasions.

Tribute was paid during Remembrance Week to the dead of the 1914-18 war. But many of the survivors (I happen to be one of them) who are over insurance age, are rewarded for their wounds or other disabilities by the denial of pensions and other rightS of citizenship. They are treated as 'un- touchables.' Their widows are refused widows' pensions and burial allowances. These facts are not displayed on the recruiting posters.


Hon. Secretary Old Age Non-Pensioners' Association 27 Hayling Rise, Worthing. Sussex